Criminal Justice & Policing

Racial Justice Act for All (AB 256)

Held

Update: This bill has been turned into a 2-year bill. It will not be moving forward in 2021, but it will be moving forward in 2022.

The California Racial Justice Act (Act) prohibits the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction, or from imposing a sentence, based upon race, ethnicity or national origin (AB 2542). While this landmark Act made it possible for a person charged or convicted of a crime to challenge racial bias in their case, it was prospective only, excluding judgments rendered before January 1, 2021. AB 256 simply extends these commonsense and overdue protections to those who have already been impacted by unfair convictions and sentences.

The Racial Justice for All Act provides equal opportunity to pursue justice for those who have already been harmed by the racial bias and discrimination that permeates our criminal legal system.

  • Blatantly racist statements by attorneys, judges, jurors and expert witnesses;
  • The exclusion of all, or nearly all Black or Latinx people from serving on a jury; and
  • Stark statistical evidence showing systemic bias in charging and sentencing.

Those with prior, racially biased convictions and sentences deserve equal justice under the law and have waited long enough. 

We must ensure that everyone is afforded an opportunity to pursue justice by making the Act retroactive. Doing so will affirm our commitment to eliminating the use of race, ethnicity or national origin in seeking or obtaining convictions or sentences.

AB 256 co-sponsors are the ACLU of California Action, American Friends Service Committee, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Initiate Justice, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the League of Women Voters of California, and NextGen.